If Michael Palin could circumnavigate the world, who could possibly stop Simon Whaley circumnavigating the Isle of Wight?
In the 1990’s, Michael Palin was busy circumnavigating the world. He was either nipping around the Equator or he was dashing from Pole to Pole. However, he hadn’t circumnavigated the Isle of Wight. In 1995, I decided that I would. I was looking for an achievable long distance footpath that I could attempt over the Easter holiday. The 60-mile Isle of Wight coastal footpath beckoned.
I should have realised that I was doomed to fail when I disembarked at Ryde Pier. I’m not saying it’s long, but I felt that I was closer to Portsmouth than I was to the Isle of Wight. When I reached the island though, it welcomed me with glorious blue skies and warm sunshine. With my two-man tent strapped to my rucksack I began my trek in a clockwise direction.
I hadn’t booked any campsites in advance. I wasn’t sure how far round I was going to get each day, and anyway, it was the Easter bank holiday weekend and that therefore, marked the start of the great British tourist season.
By 7pm light was fading and I was near Bembridge Harbour. The first two campsites I approached were closed, forcing me to walk a mile inland to find the next. Thankfully it was open, and best of all, it had plenty of space.
Entering the reception, Eva Braun sat behind the desk and looked at me disdainfully.
“Can I help you?”
“I’m looking for a pitch for the night please.”
“Not here you’re not.”
I was taken aback. The site was huge and there were only a handful of tents pitched.
“It’s only me,” I tried to argue. “I’m walking around the island using the coastal path. I just need a pitch for one night. I won’t be any trouble.”
“No can do,” Eva Braun sniped. “It’s against company policy.”
“Yes, this is a family campsite,” she spat. “We do not allow all-male parties.”
I looked over my shoulder for the other twenty hooligans that I thought I must have brought in with me without realising, but they weren’t there. It was just me. In Eva Braun’s defence, she did find a campsite willing to accept me and ordered me a taxi to take me there. When I arrived, I was back in Ryde.
I caught the next ferry back home the following morning. The Isle of Wight coastal footpath could wait. Michael Palin can do it instead.
© Simon Whaley